Lail: Everyone else is doing it!

Get on the 'net and click around to your favorite sports sites these days, and you're likely to see stories about "mid-season grades" and "first-half stars."

These stories are usually nothing more than feeble attempts at filling space, and they give sportswriters a chance to "mail it in" that week. Hey, I'm as unoriginal and lazy as the next sportswriter, so why not get into the act? Here goes nothing .

Best Team
NC State keeps beating up on its opponents, and everyone's getting into the act: offense, defense and special teams. The Pack is just where the players and coaches thought they could be at this point, while the other eight teams in the ACC have shown inconsistencies. Each game from here on out will be a monstrous test (including the Duke game), but so far State has passed each test with flying colors.

Best Player
What a tough one to call. A case could be made for NC State QB Philip Rivers, Wolfpack TB T.A. McLendon , Maryland's E.J. Henderson or UVa QB Matt Schaub, but my vote (it's a fictional vote - it doesn't really count) would go to FSU running back Greg Jones. This season Jones has recorded eight TDs and is averaging 117 yards per game, and anytime you can run for 189 yards against the No. 1 team in the land, you must be doing something right. Honorable Mention: Rivers. The State QB should get an invite to New York for a certain trophy presentation. (I said should, not will.)

Most Surprising Team
No doubt about this one: Virginia. The Cavs are very young, and there were some that doubted Al Groh's coaching ability coming into the season.
Honorable Mention: Duke. Carl Franks' team continues to fight and compete every week, and the Blue Devils have the capacity to upset some teams.

Most Disppointing Team
North Carolina. Lots of people (including yours truly) thought that UNC was a team that could challenge for the league title or end up in the basement. But in all honesty, who really thought the Heels would be one of the worst teams in the league at this point? Especially with Darian Durant as quarterback, all of those receivers and DBs and coming off a terrific season like last year? Still, the Heels are a couple of plays away from being 4-2 instead of 2-4. Honorable Mention: Florida State. Weren't the Noles promising payback to everyone this year?

Rookie of the Year
Is there really a need to discuss this? I mean really?

ACC Standings - One Man's Opinion

  1. NC State: Three words: survive and advance.
  2. Florida State: Bobby's boys showed that they can still play with the big boys.
  3. Virginia: The Cavs are gaining on the Pack and Noles.
  4. Maryland: The Fridge's team faces a key stretch. But then again, who doesn't?
  5. Wake Forest: Jim Grobe may be the best tactical coach in the ACC.
  6. Clemson: Tommy's starting to feel some heat again.
  7. Georgia Tech: Yellow Jackets still aiming at a bowl bid.
  8. North Carolina: Talent is the only thing keeping the Heels from being placed below Duke, however ..
  9. Duke: . the Blue Devils' Alex Wade may run roughshod over the UNC 'D' later this season.

This Week's Predictions:

NC State vs. Duke: Talk about a scary game (and no, I'm not joking). Duke comes to Raleigh smack dab in the middle of a win over NCSU's archrival and a so-called "statement" game at Death Valley less than a week later.  Nonetheless, the Pack hasn't lost focus for an opponent yet this year, though State has shown the propensity to lose focus for stretches during games. The Pack will win, but it will need to make its possessions count. NC State 41, Duke 27

Georgia Tech at Maryland (prediction made before the game): Talk about a toss-up. Both teams have been hampered with injuries; now is the time for someone to emerge as a hero. Look for a turtle to emerge from a shell. Maryland 28, Georgia Tech 24

Wake Forest at Clemson: The Tigers are reeling, while the Deacons have got to be the second-most confident team in the ACC right now (behind Virginia). Don't look for Wake to go down to Death Valley and get scared off. Wake Forest 32, Clemson 28

North Carolina at Virginia: Carolina's house of horrors is Scott Stadium. The Cavs always find a way to send the Heels back to Chapel Hill disappointed. This year will be no different. Virginia 21, UNC 10

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